A World Beyond War – Hallelujah!

Music (“Hallelujah”) copyright © 1984 by Leonard Cohen
Words CC BY-SA 4.0 2024 by Jim Bearden

I first got the idea for this when I ran across a rewrite of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by Shirley Serban, a New Zealand songwriter, on YouTube, a while after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. While I thought the idea was interesting, I noticed it really said nothing about that war, and I thought I might try to write a version that did. As I got into it, though, I found myself more interested in writing about the evils of war in general, and the history of wars and militarism in the U.S., where I live, rather than limiting it to the war in Ukraine. This, of course, later became overshadowed by the Hamas attacks in 2023, and the genocidal retaliation in Gaza which has followed. So now it’s not so much about either of those two wars, but war in general, the people responsible for wars, and what it costs all the rest of us.

Verse 1:
They’re beating on the drums of war,
We’ve heard that kind of talk before.
Afghanistan, Iraq, we overthrew ya.
It goes like this: more weapons, more war;
Though you may not know what you’re fighting for,
And the M.I.C. keeps finding ways to screw ya.

Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah, hallelu-u-u-u-u-u-jah.

Verse 2:
When white men first came to this land,
They saw its scenery was grand,
Gave no credit to the Natives that was due ya.
And when they reached the Pacific shore,
They looked out, and they wanted more,
A global empire when we “World War II” ya.


Verse 3:
And when the Soviet Empire ceased,
The warlords saw the threat of peace:
You need wars to keep the money coming to ya;
September 11 was the great excuse:
More war, more money, it all broke loose,
And the warlords were singing, “Hallelujah!”


Verse 4:
Now with trillions spent on bombs and jets,
You were defenseless when the real threats:
The pandemic and the climate crisis ripped right through ya.
To bring you what you’re longing for,
You need a culture of peace, not war;
A government that can give you all that’s due ya.


Verse 5:
You saw thousands killed in Gaza’s streets,
And children starving, with nothing to eat,
So they air-dropped a load of food, to fool ya.
But with billions for bombs, and pennies for bread,
The world knows what you’ve really said:
That innocent lives just don’t matter to ya.


Verse 6:
Well, if there is a God above,
He’d say, the way to win his love
Is, Do to others what you’d want them to do to ya.
That means no more killing, no more war,
Nonviolence always at the core,
In a world beyond war, we’ll sing our “Hallelujah!”

Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah, hallelu-,
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelu-u-u-u-u-u-jah.

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